A slew of very informal-looking COVID-19 testing sites, paying passersby $5 a pop for taking a COVID test, is drawing another round of scrutiny for their lack of licensed staff and apparent flouting of public health protocols.
Among the slew of maybe- or maybe-not permitted vending booths crowding the sidewalks of 24th and Mission Streets, in recent weeks there has been one curiously offering $5 cash in return for taking a COVID-19 test. Apparently, they’ve been doing this in more spots than just 24th and Mission. On Saturday, Supervisor Dean Preston tweeted a photo of another of these in his District 5 which, well, may not seem like a medically sound operation.
It also seems to be some ploy to profit off the fact that the government is still reimbursing labs for testing?
We are aware of a “covid testing” tent popping up in the Tenderloin the last few days. We’ve reached out to DPH, City Attorney, SFPD regarding investigation/enforcement. We urge folks not to engage with these sites until the city is able to determine whether they are legitimate pic.twitter.com/9rqX8jJWK0— Dean Preston (@DeanPreston) April 16, 2023
The Chronicle got on the case and investigated these COVID testing sites and their $5 offers, finding two around the Seventh and Mission Streets area. The paper found them to be "unscrupulous operations that are not properly licensed through a laboratory and whose workers do not follow basic public-health rules.” Among those public health rules not being followed, the Chronicle reports that none of the workers at these sites were masked or wearing protective gear, though one worker was wearing a glove.
Several COVID testing sites that popped up on the city's sidewalks this week appear to be unscrupulous operations that are not properly licensed. https://t.co/2CmGsVtLQx— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) April 14, 2023
Notice that these sites promote the link MyCommunityTesting.org. A look at that site shows a lot of boilerplate “It’s as easy as 1-2-3” language, but the About Us section shows no contact information, and no real background about the company.
And did these sites have the legally required licenses to perform this testing? “A worker at one of the sites, at Seventh and Mission streets, did not respond to repeated questions about whether the site had a license. He told the Chronicle he did not speak English, despite using English to communicate with a patient moments before,” the paper reports. “At another testing site a block south, a worker said he left the license in his car."
The Chronicle reached out to City Attorney David Chiu’s office. “We will certainly be looking into this,” Chiu’s spokesperson Jen Kwart told the paper. “The best way to ensure a testing operator is legitimate is to seek testing through your health care provider or an established clinic.”
This is not the first time we’ve seen what appear to be sham COVID-19 testing sites. These turned up in early 2022, when Chiu’s office went after a company that was also accused of running unpermitted COVID-19 testing sites in Marin County, San Diego, and Seattle. But a little over a year later, someone may be testing those boundaries again by offering people $5 cash to take a test.
Related: Suspicious, Unpermitted COVID-19 Testing Sites Pop Up in SF, Draw Legal Scrutiny [SFist]
Image: @DeanPreston via Twitter